Would it be Armageddon to play Santi out wide?
So the world didn’t end. I knew it wouldn’t for a number of reasons but the biggest one is that Tottenham are currently above us in the league and any deity that exists or the will of the universe would not allow the world to be destroyed and have the spirits of Spuds spend eternity claiming superiority based on league position at the time of Armageddon.
After the Bradford result you could have sworn that the world was ending though and it’s probably the main reason I haven’t blogged in a few weeks.
I had so much I wanted to say after that game. About our lack of fight, spirit, killer instinct, vision, unity, tactical awareness, mental strength and passion but it all seemed so pointless. I was angry for days and it took a lot for me not to pick up my keyboard and slag off the players, the manager and the board. After I had calmed down I still had some thoughts about the game in me and wanted to blog them but by then we were visiting family and were returning on the day of the Reading game so I thought I’d wait to see if we had learnt what I thought we needed to learn and in some ways we did.
The Reading game was impressive for a number of reasons. The attacking display was excellent and Cazorla was imperious at times. For me though the biggest positive was seeing Theo play as our lone striker. I’ve always known that Theo has the ability to play as a striker but agreed with the apprehension over his ability to lead the line. Some will say that he was playing against a crap team but I think that is just people trying to belittle Theo’s abilities as many have done for the past 7 years.
Theo’s movement was superb and I was glad he got a goal up front so that couldn’t be used against him because he really did lead the line well. His movement, runs and positioning really created the space that Podolski and Cazorla took advantage of. Cazorla was clearly the man of the match but I couldn’t take my eyes of Theo at times because he looked so natural in the CF role and showed great strength at times to hold up play. I think he finally proved to all but the most hypercritical of doubters that he is a striker.
Impressive as the team were, I still saw some of the things that made me so angry after Bradford and hope to share my thoughts with you if you’d care to read them.
I don’t want this to come across as a negative post because I don’t like to think of myself as a negative Gooner. The things I want to get across aren’t new ideas or at least won’t be new to regular readers of my blog nor are they all unique to me. They are formation, positions, flexibility, tactics and focus.
The first one I’ll put out there will probably be the most contentious and that is I think Santi shouldn’t play as our CAM.
I’m sure that about 50% of the people that clicked on the link to visit this blog have now left in disgust or are skipping to the bottom to leave a “you’re an idiot” comment for me. If you’re still reading at this point either through curiosity, disgusted interest or agreement then I thank you.
When Cazorla is on it he is really on it and can be impossible to play against but sadly it has already been worked out that he can be marked out of a game and only the foolish or foolhardy since the Liverpool game have failed to put a man on him.
I’ve watched Santi closely and my pre-season opinion of him hasn’t changed at all. I think he’d be more devastating on the wing in our 4-3-3 or on the right of a 3 in a 4-1-3-2. I know he is more than capable of playing as a CAM when he can get into the game but I’d rather have him at his almost best for 90% of matches than at 100% for 50% of matches.
Most of his best stuff, for me, has come from him being in a slightly wider area or drifting central from a wide area. My fellow blogger, Dave Seager, recently spoke about Santi playing in the Bergkamp role and I half agree with him. Position and talent wise I think of Santi more as Santi Ljungkamp or Santi Bergberg.
For me an Arsenal no.10/CAM is a player like Dennis, Cesc, and Rosicky and to some extent Jack. A player who spots passes no-one else spots and puts the ball into space the way Bergkamp and Cesc did. Santi isn’t that player for me. He has the ability, I do not doubt that for a second, but I think he is a player who is more about dribbling, running at players, jinking in and out and generally holding onto the ball as long as possible. Cazorla is a highly technical player, extremely gifted and one of the most exciting talents in the league but I don’t really see him as a one touch passing at speed on the turn type of player like Cesc was. In that role I prefer Rosicky and feel that Jack has the ability to do it long-term too.
I think in some games, Santi would be more dangerous in a wider position, either taking up the right forward position or if Wenger changed his formation depending on the opposition and played our old 4-1-3-2 formation, have him on the right of the middle three.
Santi’s ability to keep the ball at his feet, quick feet and brain and his low centre of gravity would completely bamboozle most full-backs and would destroy most centre backs when driving through the angles. Also, as @ArsenalDave14 points out, he is two footed and a superb crosser. The unpredictability of which foot he will use, his accuracy and the fact we have a 6ft 4″ striker who isn’t getting much wide service adds to the argument.
He showed a great ability to run into the box at the right time against Reading and his movement reminded me so much of Freddie. Although they didn’t take up the exact positions of Pires and Ljungberg I thought that Podolski and Cazorla played the sort of game we used to see from Bobby and Freddie on a weekly basis.
In the Champions League or against foolhardy teams like Reading we could put Santi back in hole and watch him tear teams a new one but against the smarter teams like our top four rivals and the defensive teams like Stoke etc he’d be more dangerous in a position that couldn’t be so easily marked.
With players like Podolski, Theo, Santi, Jack, Ox, Rambo and Rosicky we have real flexibility in our team to play a number of different formations without making substitutions and our lack of tactical flexibility for me is a weakness.
Many of my readers and twitter followers are huge Arsène Wenger fans so will see my comments about Santi and our tactical weakness as an attack on Wenger. I’m a Wenger fan too, I can’t thank the man enough for what he has done for my club and I certainly don’t want to see the back of him for a long time yet. Having said that, I don’t think he is perfect and have said that on many occasions. I am an Arsenal supporter first and foremost. The players, the manager, the board etc will all eventually leave but my Arsenal will always be there and it is for this reason that I think it is acceptable to question Wenger if I disagree with him.
I’m certainly not qualified to tell Wenger what to do and wouldn’t dream of it despite how my writing may come across but I think I’m qualified enough to make a few tactical observations as a supporter and share them with my fellow supporters. (I’d happily share my thoughts with Wenger if the opportunity arose though)
Just because you don’t do something it doesn’t mean you can’t. Most supporters have watched enough football to make a few tactical observations and 99% of us are armchair scouts.
Moving back to the team. I saw many improvements against Reading however there were two glaring problems that are yet to be solved. I feel we conceded those two goals because of our lack of killer instinct and our nonchalance when winning.
Our lack of killer instinct punishes us in so many games. We just can’t seem to hold onto leads or cannot put our chances to bed when we have them although the team cannot be blamed for Gervinho’s miss at Bradford, this isn’t an attack on him but that was 100% shit.
Our nonchalant attitude when we’re 2+ up is also extremely dangerous. It’s like the players think their jobs are done when we’re playing well and winning. We were 4-0 up and Ox started trying stupid flicks and back heels. All of a sudden it’s 4-2 and the supporters are nervous.
Part of what Pep brought to Barca and what made them so awesome was work ethic and focus. They saw the game out even if they were winning 5-0. There was no respite and there was no job-done attitude. There was pressing, chasing, winning and keeping the ball. Arsenal must learn to do this for 90 minutes every time they play regardless of the score line. It’s that sort of attitude that makes Swansea a dangerous team and why they beat us with 2 late goals. If they had 2 or 3 better players they might even be contenders for European places, maybe even 4th spot.
The last thing I want to talk about is the Champions League draw. I think we’ve actually got a decent draw. We are playing a German team who will just be getting back to match fitness whilst we’ll hopefully be in form. Bayern aren’t the fastest team and if Chelsea can beat them with the team they had last season (albeit on penalties) then I’m certain Arsenal can.
Some say that we’ll need to purchase in January to beat them but I don’t agree. It would be great to buy an extra player or two in January as I think we’ll lose Arshavin and Chamakh (oh no I hear you all cry…. well I do cry because I think with the right formation and tactics those two players are dangerous) and Gervinho will be playing in AFCON. Huntelaar and David Villa seem to be the most linked names and the ones most supporters really want but I really want an experienced goalkeeper to challenge Szczesny. Unfashionable I know but the heart wants what the heart wants.
I have a nice guest post for you all tomorrow and another blog planned for Sunday/Monday. I know what you’re thinking, you wait ages for a blog and three come along at once!
Thanks for sticking with my ramble today.
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